According to the Wall Street Journal, the US Justice Department is investigation cable/internet companies looking for evidence of anti-competitive behavior. Cable companies are imposing data caps and other restrictions that could be hindering the freedom of their Internet subscribers to drop cable TV and rely instead on online streaming and digital downloads.
It is about time for such an investigation. The cable companies are scared to death that entertainment will move decisively to the Internet, pay TV subscribers will drop their subscriptions, and the cable companies will be left selling only transport of data via “dumb pipes.” Those fears are all real, but the cable companies should not be allowed to stop a cheaper, more desirable market to develop.
Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open… Two years after the agency model came to bookselling, Amazon is losing its chokehold on the e-book market: its share has fallen from about 90 percent to roughly 60 percent… Brick-and-mortar bookstores are starting to compete through their partnership with Google, so loyal customers can buy e-books from them at the same price as they would from Amazon. Direct-selling authors have also benefited, as Amazon more than doubled its royalty rates in the face of competition… The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.
– Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild.
The best analysis I have found is at The Verge. You can read the complaint here. Apple is apparently willing to fight this out in court, even though several publishers have settled with the DOJ.
The FCC has released its
report on the likely impact of AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile. It isn’t pretty. Among other conclusions, the report determines that if the merger were to occur, there would be a no significant wireless competition in any major US city (with the sole exception of Omaha).
Update: The FCC report was originally at the link shown above, but has been removed from that location. Currently, a copy of the report is available here. However, the new version of the report is heavily redacted. What the heck is going on here?
Update 2: Via Lauren Weinstein, the original version of the FCC report is available here.
We believe the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would result in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower-quality products for their mobile wireless services.
– James M. Cole, deputy Attorney General, announcing that the DOJ will seek to prohibit the merger of the second and third largest US mobile telecom operators. Leaving only two significant operators absolutely would be against the interest of consumers.
“Don’t be evil” is Google’s informal motto. Since the FTC is launching a major anti-trust probe of the company, according to the WSJ, we may find out how true it is.
The FTC’s preparations to subpoena Google are the first concrete signal that its commissioners have decided there is enough evidence to move forward with a formal investigation. The FTC’s probe is expected to take a year or more to unfold. Though the outcome is uncertain, the agency fought hard with the Justice Department to handle the case, said people familiar with the investigation, and so is thought to be unlikely to walk away without taking any action. The FTC and Justice Department share responsibility for enforcing federal antitrust laws.
Apple is openly (and ruthlessly) using its market power in new ways. In the main, what Apple is doing is attempting to exert absolute control over its mobile platforms. So far, many of us (including me) are happy with the results. The various Apple mobile products are stable, secure, and functional in ways that other mobile platforms are not.
Customer satisfaction may not continue however. And I am gaining the sense that Apple might be over-controlling in a way that could be bad for the company over the long term, if not for their products.
Mike Davidson has a fascinating post up about what he sees as the motivation and the limits that Apple will impose upon itself. Highly recommended.
Steve Jobs wrote in his mostly reasonable letter condemning Flash that it was Adobe whose stuff was closed and Apple was the one using open technologies, but Adobe’s CEO — despite saying very little of substance — was right about one thing: this is a smokescreen. In order to use the Flash format, all I need to do is either buy a single copy of it (if the IDE is useful to me), or use any number of other, free compilers out there. In other words, Adobe never even needs to know about me and never needs to approve what I’m doing or selling.
In order to get my stuff onto an iPad or iPhone, however, I must receive explicit approval by a human being working for Apple after this human being has manually reviewed my work, derived my intentions for the product, and made a value judgement on what my creation brings to the device. As long as that process exists, there shall be no arguments that the iPhone or iPad are more open than just about anything we’ve ever seen before… including Flash. To claim that because Apple is pushing open standards like HTML5 (really for their own benefit) means they are somehow more open than Adobe is folly.